Snowbirds Beware! New Law in Florida Requires International Driver’s Permits

We’ve been hearing a lot about this topic in the news over the last couple of weeks, and is of great interest for those of us in Ontario who drive south in the winter, especially for March Break!

Florida has passed a law requiring all out-of-country drivers to have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).  Failure to do so could result in fines and/or other charges.  It’s not clear what the intention of this legislation was, and if it was to ensure that tourists from overseas were confirmed to be properly licenced.  Those of us who have handled auto claims know that it can be quite arduous to confirm licence details from drivers from overseas, further hindered by communication and language barriers.  In all likelihood, this law stemmed from such issues, and not because of us, their cousins north of the border.

In Ontario, anyone staying in the province for less than 3 months does not need an IDP. These drivers only need a valid licence from their home province or country, and need to be at least 16 years old.  After 3 months, an IDP is needed. More information can be found here on the government’s website.

What are the implications of failing to get your IDP for your Florida vacation?  One is that your insurance company might not cover you if you are in an accident.  This can have dire consequences for large repair and medical bills. As per CAA (the only place in Canada where you can get an IDP) this new law is not being enforced for Canadian drivers, pending further review of the law.  However, strictly speaking, if you do not have a valid licence, your insurer can deny coverage.  So, what now?

You’ll likely want to err on the side of caution, and join the lineups at CAA to get your International Driver’s Permit.  It’s a quick process, the cost is $25, and you must be at least 18.  Don’t worry!  It’s just a translation of your information.  You don’t have to write a test.

Stay tuned for further updates!

Insurance Fraud

With the new Accident Benefits regulation in effect for 2 years, have these changes had an effect on fraud? Is the amount of fraud reduced or have the culprits gotten better at hiding it?  It seems like we’re always two steps behind!

Time will tell, if the amount of fraud is being reduced, especially with the drastic increase in the amount of mediations being scheduled through FSCO.  Hopefully, less fraud will equal lower claim payouts AND lower premiums.

We’ve attached 2 videos from the Insurance Bureau of Canada that demonstrate the implications and financial cost of fraud.

Try here if you can’t view the videos below:

Insurance Bureau of Canada – Fraud on the Rise in Ontario

IBC Organized Insurance Fraud



Medical Rehabilitation Limits after September 1, 2010 (Part II)

The Minor Injury Guideline and Income Replacement Benefits

by Nick White, Accident Benefits Consultant

The current three tiered approach to medical rehabilitation limits is not new.  Insurers were already used to handling claims in the Pre-Approved Framework (PAF), which is arguably a precursor to the Minor Injury Guideline (MIG).   The new MIG seems more inclusive in its definitions, and at first blush, far less porous than the PAF.

Both the MIG and the PAF limited a claimant’s access to Attendant Care Benefits (ATC), again predicated on the notion that the injuries sustained are minor, soft-tissue in nature.  The new Schedule dictates that if their injury is still ‘Minor’ as described in the Guideline, they are not eligible for ATC.  The Schedule also  allows a person to escape from the restrictions of the Minor Injury Guideline if they can demonstrate by compelling evidence provided by a health practitioner that due a pre-existing condition  will prevent them from achieving maximal recovery from the minor injury[1].  The nexus between Attendant Care Benefits and the MIG , appears to be fairly straight forward.  The nexus between the Income Replacement Benefit (IRB) and the MIG is far more difficult for an insurer to navigate.

The PAF limited a claimant’s recovery of IRB to a 12 or 16 week cap depending on whether the injuries described were a WAD I or WAD II.  The MIG has no such connection to IRB.  A claimant determined to be in the MIG will collect IRB predicated on medical eligibility based on the Disability Certificate (OCF-3), which can be reassessed by requesting an update OCF-3 and/or moving to an insurer’s examination.

A major hurdle for insurers has come out of this more inclusive definition of a Minor Injury  – it includes partial tears.  An insured person who uses their shoulders regularly in the job, and sustains a partial tear rotator cuff, may meet the pre-104 week test of ‘substantial inability’ to engage in their pre-accident employment.  So if insurers read the letter of the SABS – they will pay the MIG limit of $3500 in medical rehabilitation and pay IRB for 104 weeks (at which time the test changes to a ‘complete inability’).   The insurer will have to hope the claimant can access community resources, OHIP or their private plan if applicable.

What is a claims handler to do? Do you hold the letter of the SABS/ MIG and simply pay  $3500, the maximum level of  medical rehabilitation benefits, and hope that FSCO and/or the Courts agree in your literal interpretation?  Or do you identify these files now and allow these claimants to leave the MIG, access medical rehabilitation beyond $3500 in the hope of minimizing the length of time they collect a disability benefit?

An  argument can be made that the partial tear (and other injuries)  – if not treated will become chronic thus negating the original MIG determination.   This could put not only the accident benefit insurer in an awkward situation, but ultimate increase the volume of third party bodily injury claims.

[1] The Superintendent’s Guideline 02/10